My Rape Was Legitimate

In September of 2006, I had been in college for less than a month. Everything still felt so new and exciting– I was living away from home, I was finally working toward getting that journalism degree I wanted, I was making friends and living my life.

I was never one of the gals who went to house parties in high school – I was way too focused on everything else: starting a community service club, running the student newspaper, playing tennis, applying to college. But when I went two hours away to Appalachian State, the upperclassman, who I would later realize weren’t legal drinking age either, seemed to have an endless supply of anything us lowly freshmen wanted to try. I happily indulged, bonding with my newly-found friends from the dorm, and together  — often in packs of 10 or so – we walked to house parties and took in the “college life” we thought was so cool.

But everything changed for me the night of my eighteenth birthday.

I had been casually seeing this guy who helped me get a job at the student newspaper. We had mutual friends, and I thought he was nice enough. He asked me out on a few dates which ended with a few kisses, but I didn’t feel anything romantic between us. I had just broken up with Mr. Faithful and I really didn’t want to start anything new. But he was a good, older friend and when he offered to throw my birthday party at his place, I couldn’t have been more thrilled. I brought along two of my new friends (who are still some of my dearest friends today), and we started drinking the moment we arrived.

He had bought all of us a six pack of something – I really don’t remember if it was Smirnoff or Mike’s Hard Lemonade or something else. I just know it was something easy to drink for newly-forming palettes that weren’t trained on what quality alcohol is and what it’s not. I know there were drinking games, a champagne toast, a banjo playing and a severe lack of food. My friends paired off with party guests and I walked around meeting everyone, getting kissed on the cheek by strangers because of my birthday pin and princess crown. I felt really mature and incredibly special – like I was finally having a real party and I was finally becoming an adult.

I’m not sure what time things started to become hazy, but at some point, all I wanted to do was to lie down. To this day, I still don’t know if anything was put in my glass/bottle or if I just had too much to drink, but I curled myself up onto the couch in my pink-and-white flowered dress and settled in to take a nap. I opened my eyes a few times and saw a few people from the knee down, walking around and then out the door. I noticed it get quieter and when someone put a blanket over me. I don’t really remember falling asleep, but eventually I did.

And the next thing I remember was pain. Something started really hurting.

Groggily, I tried to wake myself up to make it stop, but everything felt really heavy, especially my eyelids and my arms. I noticed the smell of sweat and wondered if it was me and if I brought deodorant with me. I was embarrassed that I might be smelly. I started to come fully awake and in what seemed like hours, but was really seconds, I realized what was happening – I was being raped.

The guy who threw the party was moving on top of me and I could feel the sweat from his forehead dripping onto mine. I didn’t know my dress had been pulled up to my stomach and I felt it crumpled against me, irritating my skin. With all the might I could muster, I pushed him off of me and he said the five words I can still hear perfectly:

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Even though I knew I shouldn’t if I wanted to file a report, as soon as I got home, I showered. I picked the corner stall of the women’s bathroom on my floor and I sobbed until I couldn’t anymore. I scrubbed every inch and tried my best to ignore the pain when I rinsed down there. When my parents arrived around noon to celebrate my birthday, I told them everything and we cried together. I never put on a pretty outfit to go out to a fancy lunch with them as I always did for special occasions, instead, I stayed in a Gap sweatshirt the entire day. The picture of me blowing out my candles on that day is hard for me to look at – because I see the pain in my eyes that probably no one else notices. My parents asked if I wanted to press charges, my dad threatened to go after the guy (obviously), but I made the decision not to.

For a very difficult reason – I had just started at the student newspaper and I didn’t want some scandal ruining my reputation or keeping me from escalating up the ranks. I figured since he had been working there for a few years, his tenure would overpower my words, so I just remained silent. I called him out on it one time and he denied it. He’s never admitted it, and he’s claimed he didn’t remember anything from that night. But I still remember those five words of half-assed remorse that he said.

He graduated two years before me and I became a desk editor, the associate editor and I landed internships in NYC. I give a lot of credit to what I learned at that newspaper, and sometimes I wonder if I would have been as successful if I would have spoken up and called him out. I still feel uneasy about not doing anything about the situation, especially when a friend who was on staff talked about something similar happening to her with the same guy.

But what I’ve struggled with the most is the legitimacy of my rape. And what being raped says about me as a person, as a woman…as a survivor.

I was not attacked in some dark alley. The bruises I have from being raped are not visible. I didn’t bleed. I didn’t scream “No” over-and-over, only to be ignored by passerby. I wasn’t held at gun or knife point. I’ve barely told anyone about what happened to me. It took some therapy in college, some life lessons and a lot of growing up to admit to myself that I was raped. It somehow didn’t seem like it was bad enough to be called that or somehow, I was responsible for what happened to me. Maybe if I hadn’t drank so much. Or if I had decided to not go to that house party. Maybe I led him on into thinking I was into him, when I wasn’t. Perhaps I gave him a sign that I wanted to have sex, even though I never consented to the act. But as so many people have recently pointed out – rape is rape. And the victim is never to blame.

It happened and it was awful and it has changed my life. It changed who I am as a person. For a long time, I thought about it every single day. I still think of it when someone asks me how many people I’ve slept with – do I count the sex that I was forced to have? Does he count as a sexual partner? I think about it when I’m starting to get into a relationship with someone or developing feelings, and there have only been a handful of boyfriends I’ve actually told. I’ve only shared my story with close friends, some of which have also been raped, some that are shocked to know what I went through, without telling anyone. Its impact has made me incredibly interested in sex crimes — I wrote my senior thesis in sociology about human trafficking, and I cry almost every time I watch Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. I’ve searched the Sex Offenders Registry, only to find there are two convicted violent rapists within blocks of me. I carry mase when I run, just in case. I pray for it never to happen to me again.

My rape was legitimate. It was painful – emotionally and physically and personally. If only for a few moments, it took away something that belongs to me: my choice. My choice to make love or to have sex or to do everything-but. It took away my choice to let a man inside of me. It took away my choice to ask for more and to tell someone to slow down. It took away a piece of me that I’ll never get back.

But it also did something else for me: it helped make me a fighter. And if sharing my story, as difficult as it is to pen, can help another woman realize that her rape was real – regardless of what she drank, what she was wearing or who raped her – then it’s worth it. These words are worth sharing, and I’m finally ready to publish them.

No one can change what happened to me or what may have happened to you – because we weren’t given a choice. But it is our choice to move forward. It is our choice to say what happened was legitimate, and no one has the right — or the power – to say it’s not.

If you’ve been raped, the RAINN hotline will answer your call. If you want to read the letter that helped inspire me to finally write this post, read this from Eve Ensler. If you just want to share your story or talk to someone who has been there, email me. You’re not alone.

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29 thoughts on “My Rape Was Legitimate

  1. As a father of two adult daughters, both on their own, one with a husband, all living indepdently, I empathize with your experience. I can’t imagine the journey you’ve travelled. I’m grateful you courageously shared your plight, but more importantly, I’m glad to hear of your growing strength. It takes backbone to share the banality of rape in your own words. When you get to my age, you understand more and more that what has come to pass will never change, but you have the here and now and tomorrow holds no promises. Good luck with all your pursuits; I can’t imagine you not succeeding in Life. Make the most of each day; I know that’s a cliche, but it fits.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this story. I have a friend in college who was raped by her boyfriend our freshman year and she went through so many of the same struggles. She blamed herself. She says she could have stopped it. She says she could have screamed. She didn’t have the bruises and wasn’t attacked or anything. It took her about a year to be able to tell me (or anyone for that matter) what happened to her and to really admit to herself that she had been raped. But it has made her SO MUCH STRONGER. She’s one of the most amazing people I know – and I’m blessed to be in her wedding (to a new guy who is amazing!) in a few months. :) People like you and her inspire me. I wish I could give you a hug!

    • I wish you could too! :) I hope your friend has recovered and she’s realized how much it’s NOT her fault at all. I’m happy she’s found someone to be supportive — it’s so important. Thank you for sharing her story and for sharing mine. <3

      • She’s doing awesome. It took her a long time to recover and went through a lot to get there. But honestly – she’s probably more at peace about it now than I am! (Because if I were to see him…. OH he would get some wrath!) She’s truly made peace with him and herself, it’s amazing. Women like you and her inspire me!

  3. Linds:

    All women need to file a crime report when they are raped. Those men do not deserve to have jobs when others do not. They rape dozens of women. All women need to understand that to protect each other, they must report the pseudo- men. They give good men a bad name, and encourage similar behavior among their friends. I think you should still file that police report today, since he is still probably getting women drunk and raping them. Think about it. Police need to interview him, and make him aware that he has been reported as a rapist, even if the statute of limitations to prosecute has passed.

    • I completely agree. I understand the difficulty in reporting and acknowledging this happened, and I commend you for writing this to raise awareness, but you knew this man, and found out he did this to someone else. I’m sure you saw him interact with or date other women. How could you let him do that, knowing he could be harming them or had the potential to harm them, and not say something?

  4. Powerful, Amazing…I haven’t been thru these exact experience but I feel for you completely on being disrespected or groped or touched inappropriately when it really is not your fault at all. Moments like that make women fighters and even tougher in this world. Thank goodness you survived and have strong faith sweetie. I support you on that 100 percent.

  5. Thanks for sharing Lindsay. I know this could not have been easy to write – and especially not easy to hit that ‘publish’ button, but your voice speaks of strength and courage and no doubt that will be a beacon of hope to women out there who sadly have shared similar secrets. Sexual assault is deplorable, but giving voice to your experience diminishes the power of the attack. I hope this was cathartic for you and you continue to heal and know your words absolutely are a source of comfort to others. You are an amazing woman who I am truly proud to call my sister. Lots of love.

  6. Hey Lindsay, I admire your strength and openness which will definitely help so many other people, not just in rape cases but other equally painful situations, in accepting and being strong enough to share, because in sharing we grow even the more and others learn. Oh! I just Love your work

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  8. Lindsay — wow, thanks so much for sharing your story. I know it takes a lot of courage to write about a memory that will probably always be raw and vulnerable in your life. I wish I had known back then so I could have done some serious ass-kicking with your dad, but it sounds like you are using this experience for good and encouraging others to speak out against rape and domestic abuse. xoxo

  9. Linds, I had always wondered what made you so strong. I wondered if it was your parents, which in a way it has. I also wondered if it was because you directed decided to be on your own once you hit college, which some but mostly likely not a lot of students do. You were already a fighter and strong one before this happened to you. You’re parents and your own strong will to be independent already set you up to deal with this task and to make it into something good. Being a strong fighter is something you NEED in life. I’m not sure if you’ll understand what I’m saying. Rape isn’t a good thing, but in a way it’s had a good impact on your life.

    When I was about 7 – 10 I was molested by my 1st step-father. It’s not rape, but the emotional turmoil is around the same in that way and sometimes can be worse. I’ve had many friends who have been molested or raped. Once I started to speak up around middle school and high school because I realized NOTHING was wrong with me and I didn’t do anything bad, my friends and their friends started to tell me things that happened to them. And once I spoke up, I realize how many people I could help with my own story.

    Linds you will never have any idea how many people you help with just putting this story on the internet. Many women out there will not feel alone anymore, some will start speaking up, others will be looking for help and some will start pulling off those oversized clothing and realize that they are beautiful and the man was, IS, the fugly-ugly monkey that needs to be kicked to the curve like poop.

  10. it feels wrong for me to “like” this post. you really have one hell of a spirit to stand tall, truly admirable. more interestingly, sociology? i’m awaiting my entry to college and its brilliant how the subject transforms society and its actors =)

  11. Wow. This post is extremely powerful and most of all empowering for you. You possess an inner strength that really translates onto the page and hopefully will inspire and give power to others. I commend you. Although you can never change or fix what’s happened you have the strength to know that it wasn’t your fault and that what happened to you does not define you. Power to you and hope others follow your lead in speaking out and claiming what’s happened to them on this journey called Life. Keep positive and Keep Inspiring x

  12. I appreciate you sharing your story. It is a very hard one to tell. I’m a counselor at a university and see many women who have been in similar situations. Could you tell me what your counselor said or did that was helpful to you when you talked about what happened? I want to be as helpful as possible and it is always good to know what was helpful for someone else. Thanks!

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